Juggling University with the demands of a family
Mum-of-five Emma Barrett from Pontypridd is studying the MSci Forensic Investigation at USW. She talks about returning to education and juggling her academic work with the demands of a family.
Returning to learning
"Before coming to University, I was a stay-at-home mother while my husband worked full time. My husband was a major factor in prompting me to come back into education. I always talked about doing it as I never felt I achieved what I wanted to in my teens.
"I had my eldest son at 17 and never had the opportunity until meeting my husband. I had major confidence issues due to experiencing serious domestic violence in a previous relationship and my husband helped me through all that. He made me feel like I was worth something again.
"After completing a Level 2 Science Diploma at Coleg y Cymoedd, my tutors asked me if I had ever considered university. To be honest, I never thought I would be able to go to Uni, but my tutors seemed certain that it was the place for me so I signed up to go to the Open Day at the University of South Wales. After seeing the Crime Scene Training Facility and the science laboratories I knew this was what I wanted to do, so completed an Access to Science course to get the entry requirements.
"One of the great things about being a mature student is that you're not treated any differently because of your age. Although college was supportive, I found a lot of the extra help was directed at under 25’s and I was 32 when I started back into education.
"Tutors here are very supportive, especially having a very busy life like mine where I end up with appointments for the kids etc. If, for an unforeseen reason, I have to miss any practical sessions I have the opportunity to do one of the catch up sessions, as they are aware that sometimes things happen that cannot be helped. To help with my academic work, I have attended study skills workshops to help with Maths and IT skills. Lectures are uploaded online which not only helps if you have missed it but also with coursework and revision too. You can also request a one-to-one meeting with tutors to go through any problems you come across during your studies.
"To balance University and home life I have to be very organised and stick to a strict routine to make it to my 9am lectures - sometimes it’s a crazy mad dash in the morning to finish the school run and get into lectures on time! I arrange certain nights to do my academic work and always try to get the work done as soon as it is set so I have plenty of time.
Role model for my children
"My children are very proud of me going to University. I occasionally have to miss some of their school activities but they understand that it is for a good reason and my husband does try to go when I cannot.
"It is extremely important for me to be a good role model for them. I was a very young mother and I try my best to inspire them to go a different path than I did when I was young.
"When my eldest son was in school, I used to talk to him about how I wish I had done it when I was younger and how my fantastic course is pushing me towards a better career in the future. He's now studying engineering at university, and I couldn't be more proud.
"To other women who are thinking about whether or not to go back into education, my message is go for it. You will love it, be supported towards reaching your goals and, from my experience of Forensics, it's not nearly as male dominated as you would expect."